Back to top

How to get a one-time entertainment license

You need a license to host a one-time event like a carnival or festival. There are two ways to get a license.

Last updated:
Step
1

Before you get started in person

You must get a one-time entertainment license for public shows at certain events. You'll need to apply for a license if you are hosting an event — whether it is free or ticketed — if:

  • the event is at an outdoor public property
  • the event is at an outdoor private property (for example, Lawn on D or a church parking lot)
  • the event is at an indoor venue and is open to the public or by invitation only, or
  • the event requires other City permits, or a special event license.

Are you an annual entertainment license holder? You need a one-time entertainment license if you would like to have entertainment that is not on your annual license.

What's considered a public show?

Public shows are concerts, dance exhibitions, cabarets, and other events that include:

  • dancing, whether by performers or patrons
  • recorded or live music
  • an amplification system
  • a theatrical play or a film screening
  • a floor show or light show, or
  • any other audio or visual show.

You can get more detailed information about regulations from this City booklet.

Please note:
  • We do not license entertainment on private residential properties. Examples include house parties or condominium barbecues for residents.
  • Before you apply, you also need to make sure to pay any outstanding bills with the City.
Step
2

Get your application together

Print out and complete the one-time entertainment license application. If you are holding a carnival, you also need to print out and complete the one-time carnival license applicationYou need to get your application signed by the Boston police captain from the district where you’re holding the event

If the event is indoors, we will need a copy of your Inspection Certificate and Place of Assembly Permit. We may also ask you for extra documents, including:

  • a Certificate of Liability Insurance
  • a license to Operate Amusement Devices
  • a parks permit
  • a building permit
  • a fire permit for open flame
  • a letter from the property owner, and
  • any other information we need.

To get an idea of what it costs to apply, you can view a list of common fees. We take certified checks, money orders, or credit or debit cards.

You may request to have the one-time entertainment license fee waived or prorated if you are a certified tax-exempt, nonprofit. You'll need to fill out this waiver form and give us proof. The waiver request must be submitted to the Licensing Division at least seven days before the event date for review and approval.

Step
3

Give us your application

Bring your completed application, documents, and payment to:

Consumer Affairs and Licensing
1 City Hall Square, Room 817
Boston, MA 02201
Office hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Keep in mind:
  • You need to give us your application at least two weeks before the event.
  • We will not accept applications without the Boston police captain signature.
Step
1

Before you get started by mail

You must get a one-time entertainment license for public shows at certain events. You'll need to apply for a license if you are hosting an event — whether it is free or ticketed — if:

  • the event is at an outdoor public property
  • the event is at an outdoor private property (for example, Lawn on D or a church parking lot)
  • the event is at an indoor venue and is open to the public or by invitation only, or
  • the event requires other City permits, or a special event license.

Are you an annual entertainment license holder? You need a one-time entertainment license if you would like to have entertainment that is not on your annual license.

What's considered a public show?

Public shows are concerts, dance exhibitions, cabarets, and other events that include:

  • dancing, whether by performers or patrons
  • recorded or live music
  • an amplification system
  • a theatrical play or a film screening
  • a floor show or light show, or
  • any other audio or visual show.

You can get more detailed information about regulations from this City booklet.

Please note:
  • We do not license entertainment on private residential properties. Examples include house parties or condominium barbecues for residents.
  • Before you apply, you also need to make sure to pay any outstanding bills with the City.
Step
2

Get your application together

Print out and complete the one-time entertainment license application. If you are holding a carnival, you also need to print out and complete the one-time carnival license applicationYou need to get your application signed by the Boston police captain from the district where you’re holding the event

If the event is indoors, we will need a copy of your Inspection Certificate and Place of Assembly Permit. We may also ask you for extra documents, including:

  • a Certificate of Liability Insurance
  • a license to Operate Amusement Devices
  • a parks permit
  • a building permit
  • a fire permit for open flame
  • a letter from the property owner, and
  • any other information we need.

To get an idea of what it costs to apply, you can view a list of common fees. We take certified checks, money orders, or credit or debit cards.

You may request to have the one-time entertainment license fee waived or prorated if you are a certified tax-exempt, nonprofit. You'll need to fill out this waiver form and give us proof. The waiver request must be submitted to the Licensing Division at least seven days before the event date for review and approval.

Step
3

Mail us your application

Mail your completed application, documents, and payment to:

Consumer Affairs and Licensing
1 City Hall Square, Room 817
Boston, MA 02201

Keep in mind:
  • You need to give us your application at least two weeks before the event.
  • We will not accept applications without the Boston police captain signature.
Need to Know:
  • You must submit applications with the district police captain's signoff at least two weeks before the date of the event.
  • You can pick up and pay for your license Monday through Friday, from 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Contact:
Consumer Affairs and Licensing
1 City Hall Square
Room 817
Boston MA  02201-2039
United States
Need to cancel your event?

If you need to cancel your event, let us know before the date of the event by emailing MOCAL@boston.gov. We will still charge you a fee if you don’t let us know in time.

Suggested Content

We're testing out suggested content on Boston.gov below. If you see anything out of place, let us know at feedback@boston.gov.